How to Cut the Size of Your Church in Half! by Steven Lawson
Brother Jerry Grace is blogging about Dr. Steven Lawson, Calvinist Extraordinaire
. Dr. Lawson is scheduled to speak at Dr. John MacArthur's upcoming Shepherd’s Conference
Lawson was pastor of huge Dauphin Way Baptist church in Mobile during which time his growth rate was -57% (yes minus) in membership and attendance -63% (yes minus). What a great church it once was and can be again. The bottom line here is that Dr. Lawson was a Calvinist who seems to like small churches better than larger ones, so he built one. What got him in real trouble was the congregation’s evangelistic goals and desires were obviously not being addressed.
The evangelistic goals might not have been addressed but I bet his congregation could recite the ordo salutis
backwards and forwards!
Jerry asks, "I wonder what subject matter Dr. Lawson, who is on the board of directors of John MacArthur’s seminary, will address: How to build a well rounded small congregation?"
For the record, Dr. Lawson is a graduate of John Frame's
Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Lawson "has authored ten books." Perhaps his next title will be: How to Cut the Size of Your Church in Half!
HT: Steve Y. Berry
Evangelism: Tom Ascol and James White vs. Charles Spurgeon
Are today's Calvinist Baptists evangelistic? The great 19th century pastor Charles Spurgeon certainly was. Living in London, England, one of the largest cities in the world at the time, Spurgeon won multiple thousands to Christ preaching the simple "ABC"* gospel.
Today's Reformed Calvinist Baptists all say that they are Spurgeon's heirs. "Dr.
" James White and Dr. Tom Ascol are two Calvinist Baptists who allege theological kinship with the prince of preachers.
Are White and Ascol's claims to Spurgeon's legacy valid? Let's find out.
First of all, White and Ascol are theologically adrift from Spurgeon's Calvinism. Both White and Ascol promote a theology that teaches a person must be regenerated or born again before
he places faith in Jesus Christ. This is contrary to not only what Spurgeon believed
but is also contrary to historic Baptist confessions
. White and Ascol are more extreme in their views that even John Calvin himself
! White and Ascol, therefore, are not confessional Calvinists but instead are best described as hybrid / hyper / extreme / neo Calvinists (choose your prefix).
Spurgeon differs with White and Ascol theologically on the new birth. But do they line up with Spurgeon on evangelism, on seeking out lost sheep?
Living in London, Charles H. Spurgeon pastored one of the largest churches in the world. The church was built on the preaching of the Word of God and on the personal evangelistic efforts of Spurgeon. Spurgeon was consistently winning people to the Lord. He loved anyone who preached the simple gospel to lost sinners, an example of which would be when he had the great evangelist, D. L. Moody, for revival meetings.
White and Ascol both say that evangelism is important and is part-and-parcel of their brand of Calvinism. Reading their writings, one discovers that they believe witnessing to the lost is an important duty for every Christian, certainly for Reformed-minded Baptists. But are they truly heirs of Spurgeon?
Since White and Ascol are leaders in Reformed circles and seek to influence Baptists through their writings on church polity and evangelism, it would be prudent to investigate their ministries and churches before swallowing their theological bait. In other words, does their walk match their talk? Let's find out.
Brother James White has lived in the Phoenix, Arizona area for many years. For at least two decades, Phoenix has been one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Brother James is an elder at the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church at 3805 N. 12th Street.
Since James thinks so highly of Spurgeon, one would expect his church to be a growing, thriving Baptist church that is reaching Phoenix newcomers with the wonderful gospel that Spurgeon preached. After so many years, James' diligent efforts at evangelism would have gathered enough of the "elect" to have a pretty good-sized church, wouldn't you think? After reading James' writings on how Reformed Calvinists are so evangelistic, I just knew his church would be one of Phoenix's megachurches.
Since Brother James' church is not a Southern Baptist church I was unable to secure attendance and membership records. Google, however, provides something even better. With one click Google provides us with a satellite photo of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church
. Be sure and count the number of spaces in the parking lot.
I admit, I was shocked when I saw the satellite picture. I could picture a church this size in rural Alabama but in the middle of metro Phoenix with the evangelistic zeal of Elder James White? Say it isn't so! The church can't be this tiny, can it, especially with all the years James has spent in Phoenix? To provide some context, here is a picture of the area surrounding James' church
. It's definitely not a rural area. Could Google have pinpointed the wrong building? Maybe, but I doubt it.
James White: An heir of Charles H. Spurgeon? Not likely.
But what of Dr. Tom Ascol? As the head of Founders Ministries (yes, they really believe what they are doing is a ministry), Tom enthusiastically claims Spurgeon as a model.For the last twenty years
, Brother Tom has pastored the Grace Baptist Church, located at 204 SW 11th Place in Cape Coral, Florida. Cape Coral is in Lee County which is the most populous county is southwest Florida. According to the US Census, in 2000, the population of Lee County was 440,888. A mere four years later, the population jumped to 514,295.
Cape Coral is the largest city in Lee County with a population of 140,010 in 2005. This is up from 74,991 in 1990. The city and county have grown like wildfire since Tom began his pastorate in 1986. For twenty years Tom Ascol has pastored a church in one of fastest growing areas of the Unites States. Many pastors dream to work in such a growing field.
Since Dr. Ascol thinks so highly of Spurgeon, one would expect his church to be a growing, thriving Baptist church that is reaching Cape Coral newcomers with the wonderful gospel that Spurgeon preached. After so many years, Tom's diligent efforts at evangelism would have gathered enough of the "elect" to have a pretty good-sized church, wouldn't you think? After reading Tom's writings on how Reformed Calvinists were so evangelistic, I just knew his church would be one of Cape Coral's megachurches.
Let's look at the data. Lee County is part of the Royal Palm Association, which is part of the Florida Baptist Convention. The FBC reports
that after twenty years of pastoring by Tom Ascol, Grace Baptist Church has 212 total members and 201 resident members. In case the numbers are off, Google provides a satellite photo of Grace Baptist Church
. (You may need to "move" the picture up a bit to see the church). To provide some context, click here to see a picture of the area surrounding Tom's church
Tom Ascol: An heir of Charles H. Spurgeon? Not likely.
My opinion is that James White and Tom Ascol are nothing like Spurgeon. Not in theology. Not in evangelism. So when you hear them quoting Spurgeon and saying that their brand of Calvinism is evangelistic, just remember what you have seen today with your own eyes.
So then, why are today's Calvinist churches so small? Brother Bob Ross has the answer
. The moral of this story is that if you want a growing, thriving church, don't look to the theology and practice of James White and Tom Ascol for your model.
* Below is from Brother Bob Ross, owner of Pilgrim Publications
, the company that publishes all of Charles H. Spurgeon's sermons.
At a London meeting at which C. H. Spurgeon presided a young minister was asked to speak. He startedby saying that he was a poor speaker and all he knew was the A. B. C. Gospel
He went on to say "A"
stands for the text we should all learn first as it is the very beginning of the Gospel for every sinner--"All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.""B"
stands for --"Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.""C"
is --"Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
At the close of the address Mr. Spurgeon, with tears streaming down his cheeks, said --
"Stick to that kind of preaching and you will be a real A. B. C."
Mr. Spurgeon meant by this, an "Able Bodied Christian."
Wednesday, June 28, 2006 12:28 PMCORRECTION REGARDING BROTHER TOM ASCOL AND GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH
Brother Tom Ascol said in an email to another blogger that information from the Florida Baptist Convention regarding his church is incorrect. He reports on the size of his church, "our average attendance on Sunday mornings is between 300-350. Our Sunday night attendance is about 150-175 and our Wednesday night attendance is around 200."
I'm happy to say that, if correct, this makes Brother Ascol's church somewhat larger than reported. Readers can decide for themselves if someone who has a twenty year ministry
in one of America's fastest growing cities
which yields a church this size can lay claim to being a spiritual and evangelistic heir of Charles Spurgeon.
Dr. Al Mohler Starts a Blog on How to Build a Great Church...NOT!
Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. has started a new blog. As the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one would think that Dr. Mohler's blog would be about, oh, building a great church, perhaps? Think again. Dr. Mohler instead has decided to blog on "current issues facing the SBC
." Not a bad subject, mind you, but not what one would expect from someone who is getting paid by Southern Baptists to train preachers.Timmy Brister
, one of the many Reformed Calvinist students at Southern who enjoys trashing men like Jack Graham on his blog, was so thrilled by the prospect of another Mohler blog that I thought Timmy might actually quit his UPS job and start a church!
No such luck.
Timmy reported, "Here's Dr. Mohler's outlets from his website and blogs:
* Conventional Thinking
* Mohler Commentary
* Mohler Blog
* Mohler Radio Show
* T4G Group Blog
It would be great if other SBTS profs would join the example set by Dr. Mohler and grab a blog!
I'm not making this up. Timmy wants the professors to join Mohler in blogland.
On April 28, 2006, in the article "Is Al Mohler Responsible for the SBC's Drop in Baptisms
," I said, "Following the lead of Dr. Mohler himself, these (Southern Seminary) 'preacher boys' are good at blogging but not so good at building Southern Baptist churches.
Timmy notes in another blog entry that "we do have what is called the SBTS metablog which currently has 80 blogs by students affiliated with Southern.
" He's not kidding. See for yourself.
Read them and weep for the Southern Baptist Convention.
Why Did Mark Dever Lose at the Southern Baptist Convention?
Find out the REAL reason Monday, June 19th, on The Calvinist Flyswatter
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Monday, June 19, 2006 @ 5:55p.m.
Frank Page’s election as President of the Southern Baptist Convention wasn’t the only surprise last week in Greensboro. Mark Dever’s loss in the race for 1st Vice President provided insight into the strength of the Reformed Calvinist movement in the SBC.
WHY DEVER LOST
Mark Dever’s support in the Southern Baptist Convention’s Vice Presidential race came from a small number of Calvinist activists whose support was deep, but not very wide. The VP race signaled to the Convention that Calvinists will turn out for one of their own, but at the same time their numbers are so small as to barely make a difference in Convention politics.
Dever is a promoter of extreme hybrid/hyper/neo Calvinist theology such as the belief that a person must be born again before he can place faith in Jesus Christ. His theology is foreign to Southern Baptist churches and SBC confessions. He also has some bizarre church practices such as his customary refusal to baptize children under the age of eighteen. That doesn’t set well with Southern Baptists who grew up hearing Jesus’ words to “suffer the little children ....” (Matt 19:14)
I believe the main reason that Dever was not elected was because of efforts made to educate Southern Baptists about his strange theology, practices, and associations. One notable effort was by Jerry Grace, a Mississippi Baptist who discovered that Mark Dever’s web site recommended Presbyterian churches over Southern Baptist churches. As Mr. Grace wrote in his blog
, “We've got many outstanding SBC churches in a relatively small area of North Jackson. Instead what was recommended [on Mark Dever’s web site] were six Presbyterian churches and one Reformed independent congregation.”
Dever responded on Mr. Grace’s blog stating that “the fact that the 9Marks church search website (see www.9marks.org) are churches which register themselves, simply stating that they, too, agree with and want to exemplify the 9 marks of a healthy church which I have written about.” Instead of an explanation, Dever’s remarks were more of an indictment. Isn’t it strange that Presbyterian churches, and not Southern Baptist churches, are more likely to “register” with 9marks.org? What does that reveal about Dever’s theology?
Mr. Grace went a step further. “In May I wrote hundreds of letters to churches and associations telling them about those continuing Presbyterian recommendations as well as informing them that Dr. Dever is the recognized spokesmen for the Calvinist element of our convention.”
(Mr. Grace also discovered that Dever’s church has a disproportion “influence in the SBC in terms of representation on the boards of commissions, institutions, and agencies and memberships on committees.” But that’s a story for another day.)
After the election, Mr. Grace wrote, “I’m certainly not claiming any personal victory here or elation at the defeat of a good and decent man. The vote was about differences and those were important enough to fight for.” Personally, I believe Mr. Grace is being modest. I believe his letters did make a difference in that they helped inform Southern Baptists who Mark Dever really is.
Jerry Grace, a member of the Southern Baptist “silent majority,” decided to get involved and defeat a candidate who is more Presbyterian than Southern Baptist. The effort to inform Southern Baptists about Mark Dever’s aberrant theology is the real reason he was defeated, and Jerry Grace was a big part of that effort.
ANALYSIS OF THE ELECTION
Let’s look at the numbers.
The election of the first vice president turned out to be an extremely close race with Jimmy Jackson, pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., narrowly beating out Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. in a runoff election.
Prior to the runoff between Jackson and Dever, the first VP race was a four-way between Jackson, Dever, Kelly J. Burris, pastor of Kempsville Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Va., and evangelist Keith Fordham from Fayetteville, Ga.
Below were the allowed votes for the first ballot of the VP election.
With no candidate getting a majority vote on the first ballot, Convention rules mandated a runoff between the top two candidates. Jackson picked up an extra 99 votes in the runoff election, while Mark Dever actually lost 60 votes.
As any political science major knows, candidates almost always increase their vote count during a runoff, since the votes of the dropped candidates are up for grabs. However, in the SBC VP race, Burris and Fordham supporters seem to have thrown their support for Jackson over Dever.
|1st VP (runoff)|
As the numbers indicate, the total votes for the first ballot 1st VP election were 3,659. This compares to 8,961 total allowed votes cast for the SBC presidential election.
These numbers are significant. They reveal that Dever’s support was deep and strong, but not very widespread. Prior to Greensboro, Calvinist blogs were buzzing with information about Dever. For a time, there was even speculation that Dever would run for President, and his potential candidacy set the Reformed Calvinist blogs on fire, drawing enthusiastic support from SBC bloggers and even from non SBC bloggers such as Gene M. Bridges, and Steve Camp, a Christian music artist.
Strong Reformed Calvinist support, however, does not mean strong Southern Baptist support. In most cases, it probably means the opposite. Mark Dever refused overtures to run for SBC President, but, perhaps in an attempt to test the strength of SBC Calvinists, he did finally agree to run for the VP position.
DEVER’S LOSS EVEN WORSE THAN THE NUMBERS INDICATE
Dever’s poor showing in VP election was in spite of the following.
- He ran a “breakout session” at the Pastor’s conference just prior to the election. None of the other VP candidates had the same exposure, especially immediately prior to the election.
- Unlike the other candidates, he is an accomplished author. His book, 9 Marks, is read, studied, and followed by Reformed Baptists everywhere. "SBTS Student," a reader of The Calvinist Flyswatter, said to me in an email, “9 Marks has been recommended in every class I have had on church polity and doctrine. Mark Dever is the model pastor for many professors at Southern Seminary. John Piper is still popular but there has been some backing away from Piper since his recent rejection of believer’s baptism as a requirement for church membership. Dever is the new gold standard at Southern.”
These factors lead me to believe that Reformed Calvinists were determined to "get out the vote" for Dever. Yet even with their backing, he still came up short.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR DEVER AND THE SBC?
Despite his fanatical support among Calvinists, Dever only gathered 1,107 votes on the first ballot, and even less in the runoff. Luckily for him, he chose not to run for President, had he done so his defeat would have been overwhelming. Unlike most Southern Baptists who left after the Presidential election, most Reformed Calvinists stayed for Dever’s VP election in an attempt to make their voices heard. Yet even with their strong support, Dever garnered only a mere 1,107 votes.
Tom Ascol, the ultimate blogger of Reformed Calvinist spin and propaganda, has attributed Dever’s defeat to “logistics,” by saying that not all the messengers were back for the runoff vote because it was unscheduled and they were eating instead. “In addition, it was raining,” he says. Ascol’s logic cuts both ways, however, as Jimmy Jackson would also have been hurt by an unscheduled vote, unless Ascol believes that God only feeds and sends rain on Calvinists.
While Ascol and some others are putting on a good face for their blog followers, Dever’s poor showing has left many Reformed Southern Baptists feeling downcast and dejected. Some of the bloggers are asking, “Is it worth it?”
I believe the Reformed Calvinists will be back. Their blogs will continue to give them a false sense of importance regarding their role in SBC life. They will continue to jabber about false membership numbers and predestination, drawing attention away from evangelism and missions. Their continued presence in the Southern Baptist Convention will be a distraction for years to come, and in response Southern Baptists will need to remain informed and involved in future elections.
In the meantime, Mark Dever is not the SBC VP, which is a very good thing for Southern Baptists.
Frank Page has been elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention
Forgive this "live blogging" report but it was just announced that Frank Page was elected President of the SBC with 50.48% of the votes cast. The remaining votes were split between Ronnie Floyd and Jerry Sutton.
UPDATE (4:25PM). I believe Frank Page will be good for the SBC. Some have seen him as anti-Calvinist due to his published book, “Trouble with the Tulip: A Closer Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism
,” but in an interview with Baptist Press
he pledged to work with all those who have "a sweet spirit, an evangelistic heart and a deep belief in the integrity of the Word of God."
He also said in the interview, "We must have honesty about this issue. There are churches splitting across the convention because pastors are coming in quietly trying to teach Calvinism or Reformed theology without telling the pastor search committees where they stand. The vast majority of Southern Baptist churches are not Calvinistic in their theology and it’s causing some serious controversy."
If Page follows his criteria then hopefully he will begin to address the many problems at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
which is killing the evangelistic spirit of the SBC, and with Founders Ministries
(yes, they really believe what they are doing is a ministry), whose practices Page may have had in mind when he spoke of "churches splitting across the convention."
Dr. Mohler Has Eye Surgery
SBTS Student, a friend of The Calvinist Flyswatter
, forwarded an email to me from Southern Seminary saying that Dr. Albert Mohler had eye surgery yesterday, June 11.
I hope everyone will pray for Dr. Mohler. Perhaps God will use this time to not only heal him but also awaken him to the many problems
at Southern Seminary.
FROM: President's Office [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Dear friends of Southern Seminary,
I write this morning to update you on the health of Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., and to bring before you a matter of prayer. As many of you know, for some years Dr. Mohler has struggled with eye issues pertaining to the cornea. Yesterday, Sunday, at 2:00 Dr. Mohler underwent corneal surgery at Duke University. Evidently the surgery was a success, and we thank the Lord for his gracious providence. However, the next several days will be difficult for Dr. Mohler.
This week Dr. Mohler is in Greensboro, North Carolina at the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Mohler daily has many responsibilities that are public in nature. The eye surgery complicates matters in two areas, and this is where we need your prayers. First, the surgery has left Dr. Mohler's vision greatly impaired. Second, the surgery has also left Dr. Mohler experiencing serious pain. Please join us in praying that the Lord would minimize both of these obstacles and enable Dr. Mohler to complete the tasks before him these next several days.
Thank you so much for standing with us in prayer.
Jason K. Allen
Executive Assistant to the President
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary